Almost two years ago, I asked a simple question: Why do so many women have tattoos of Tweety Bird, the Warner Bros. cartoon character? Other articles we write here at Irregular Times get surges of interest, but day in, day out, the Tweety Bird article is almost always the most popular with our readers.
I still haven’t gotten an adequate answer to my original question, though. Most people just say that they love Tweety Bird because he’s cute. Well, lots of things are cute, but why does Tweety Bird rise to the top?
Now I’m left with another question: Why is the article about Tweety Bird the most consistently-read article here at Irregular Times? Is it because there is a hitherto untapped need people have to discuss Tweety Bird, or tattoos? Is it because, as spam artists might tell me, I just happened to accidentally hit the proper combination of keywords? Is it because, while the Tweety Bird article is unremarkable, everything else we write is even less interesting to people in general?
Whatever the answer, I went searching this morning for more insights on the question of the Tweety Bird tattoo, and I came smack up against a serious rival: Bugs Bunny.
As a tattoo, Bugs Bunny may be even more popular than Tweety Bird. Do a Google search for “tweety bird tattoo”, and you’ll get 743 results. Do a search for “bugs bunny tattoo”, and you’ll get 887 results.
I feel baffled, like Elmer Fudd in that cartoon where Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd do an opera, and Bugs Bunny puts Elmer Fudd helplessly in a barber’s chair, and jacks him up to the ceiling of the theater, and Elmer Fudd is so confused that he cannot resist, even though he’s the one with the shotgun. Dear me. Am I clueless about these tattoos because I have the heart of Elmer Fudd?
I was unable to find any good explanation of the Tweety Bird Tattoo, but I did find something of a deeper cultural exploration of the motif of Bugs Bunny… something that goes deeper than a tattoo of Bugs Bunny, if you will.
Swartzentruber Studios has gone farther than Warner Brothers Studios, and created an exhibition entitled Pop-Mennonite, showing works by Don Swartzentruber that feature an odd mixture of pop cultural references and classic images of Mennonite life.
In that collection, I found an image entitled What’s Up Menno. In it is a picture of Menno Simons, the founder of the Mennonites who, as you can see, apparently used the Bible as a tongue depressor. There, in less substantial sketch form, but nonetheless in front of and on top of Menno Simons, is Bugs Bunny.
Is this just an artist’s whimsy? Perhaps not. A comment from someone in Ohio mentions, “My Bugs Bunny tattoo on my ankle gives people of the Mennonite congregation I pastor something to talk about!”
Something to talk about, indeed? But what? What do those Mennonites have to say about the unexpected appearance of Bugs Bunny? Why a Bugs Bunny tattoo? Why on the ankle? Why the Mennonite connection?
The artist explains, in comments on his own work, “Despite Mennonites inheriting their name from this outlaw priest, rare was the Mennonite sermon where he was quoted. His influence was a part of the tradition and doctrine but there was no form of canonization. Bugs Bunny dominated his social interactions through wit and chicanery. Humor is essential to emotional vitality, so society relishes laughter and admires the jester who can alleviate life’s monotony and melancholy. Menno Simons stands in sharp contrast, as his words suggest reverence.”
That sounds like a fine analysis, but it makes the prevalence of Bugs Bunny tattoos even more mysterious to me. If people like Bugs Bunny because “society relishes laughter and admires the jester who can alleviate life’s monotony and melancholy”, then why do people try to capture and freeze Bugs Bunny on their skin in a form that will never change? Doesn’t the permanence of the tattoo negate the jester psychology of Bugs Bunny? Isn’t a tattoo by nature monotonous?